A caregiver grandson posing for a picture with his grandfather

The moment when I realized I was a full-time caregiver

Jerri and Jerry
Jerry and her father

I’m Jerri, and he’s Jerry. I’m 42, he’s 67.

I became his caregiver by circumstance, not by choice.

“Caregiver” is a title that was forged upon me, with no regard for the roles I already had in my life (and there are many). There was no request, no consideration, no time to transition, it was just….happening.

Some would say I’ve been a caregiver since 2017, but I don’t think I really “felt” like one until 2018 when my father’s health declined drastically.

In April 2017, only a year after my brother moved my dad from St. Louis to Atlanta to be closer to him, my dad was diagnosed with dementia. It was a slight case and he was still pretty independent overall. But the diagnosis meant he needed a new residence. I had to find a Personal Care Home for him to ensure that someone would be available to monitor/administer his meds and meals. The search was a task indeed, but once I found the right place, he settled in pretty well.

Fast forward to 2018…

In February, we took my dad bowling for his 66th birthday. He bowled two games, putting some of his grandchildren to shame!

But that April he experienced an episode of non-stop seizures and was hospitalized for almost two weeks as doctors mixed “cocktails” of different meds in their attempts to manage his seizures. This is when I felt the “caregiver” role hit a new intensity.

My father went from hospital to rehab to hospital to nursing home to hospital to rehab to hospital until I finally brought him to my home. In September 2018 he was discharged to my home on a stretcher connected to a feeding machine. The doctors consulted with me about options for palliative care, but after researching and consulting with family (and praying), I declined.

I was hopeful. I could still see fight in my dad’s eyes. My mom was worried at the task I was taking on. He required non-stop monitoring, turning, feeding, changing, etc. It was a lot. I didn’t argue that at all, but I didn’t feel like there was much of a choice but to bring him home. The hospital and healthcare professionals felt they had done all they could do and he was “stable” in their eyes.

As a woman of faith, I knew that the task would not be done in my own strength. Only God would see us through the season of his recovery, as He’d gracefully done up to that point.

Oh, and, along with becoming my father’s full-time caregiver, I’m also a wife, a mom of six, an active community advocate, and entrepreneur. But as I said at the beginning…. This caregiver role came with no regard for the other hats I was already wearing as so few do.

So I wear the hat, and embrace the journey in God’s strength.

Jerri Brown is a caregiver and community advocate from Atlanta, Georgia. You can read more about her caregiving journey here.

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